Hot Air Balloon Accidents

hot air balloons

A hot air balloon ride can be a unique and exhilarating experience. With its close proximity to the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains, as well as preserves, oak forests, and lakes, Sacramento serves as an ideal departure point for launching a hot air balloon. Due to its sunny weather year-round, temperate climate, and mild winds, Sacramento and surrounding cities offer multiple hot air balloon tours. Some tours cater towards large groups, taking upwards of 16 passengers per balloon, while others are more geared toward private and often romantic experiences for two or three individuals. Whatever your preference, a hot air balloon ride can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see breathtaking scenery not visible from land. Unfortunately, with that spectacular view come very real and very dangerous risks.

How Does a Hot Air Balloon Work?

The hot air balloon was invented in 1783 by the French Montgolfier brothers. Since its inception, the hot air ballooning technique has remained essentially unchanged. The hot air balloon consists of the balloon itself, which contains heated air, a basket, and an open flame with a control on it. The operator of the balloon controls the fire. When hot air fills the balloon, the balloon rises. When the flame is turned down low, the balloon begins to sink. While this seems relatively simple, it is challenging and dangerous to operate a hot air balloon. Hot air balloons are incredibly susceptible to changes in weather. In addition, in an accident involving the open flame, there is no way to escape the balloon when it is in flight, nor is there access to water to extinguish a fire.

Hot Air Balloon Regulations

Over the years, various state and federal regulatory agencies began instituting multiple rules and regulations to encourage the safety of balloons. For instance, hot air balloons that operate tours or commercial flights are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to undergo a thorough and complete inspection once every 100 hours of flight time. If the balloon is not flown commercially, it must be inspected yearly. The FAA requires hot air balloon pilots to obtain licenses and undergo a flight review once every two years. Commercial licenses are granted to eligible pilots by the FAA, and individuals considering flying with a particular pilot can access their safety records on

Hot Air Balloon Accidents

Although these regulations are in place, hot air balloon accidents remain possible. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) initiated investigations into such accidents in 1964. Out of the 775 reported incidents since then, 70 have resulted in passenger fatalities, with 16 of those occurring within the last 14 years. While this might appear as a relatively low number, it's important to note that the annual hot air balloon passenger count is also quite limited. Furthermore, factors contributing to hot air balloon accidents and potential fatalities can include the following:

  • Pilot negligence
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Power lines
  • Balloon malfunction
  • Trees
  • Rough landings
  • Collisions with other balloons
  • Fires

In the event of injuries resulting from a hot air balloon incident, you could potentially pursue a valid civil damages claim against either the balloon pilot or the operating company. Potential damages include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and attorney's fees. While the hot air balloon tour guides would like to convince you that hot air balloon accidents are freak accidents, this is untrue. Most hot air balloon accidents occur due to pilot negligence. Negligence occurs when the pilot fails to exercise the proper level of care when flying the balloon.

This video provides safety measures for operators and riders to keep themselves safe during a hot air balloon ride.

Personal Injury Lawyers in Sacramento

If you were injured in a hot air balloon accident, you need a personal injury attorney well-versed in Federal Aviation Administration regulations and civil liability law. The Edward A Smith Law Offices has focused solely on personal injury cases since 1992. To discover why our law firm is known as the "personal" personal injury law firm, contact The Edward A Smith Law Offices today to schedule a free initial consultation at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.

Editor's Note: updated 10.27.23 Photo by on pexels

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